If it Weren’t for My Faith

If it weren’t for my faith this would be impossible.
If I did not have faith forgiveness would be impossible.
Absolutely impossible.

At times, sweet Jesus, you have tested me to the end.

I am so angry, I feel so betrayed, I feel so completely let down.
Why? I know I try to never ask, but Why?
Why since the beginning did you send people into my life who’s “love” looked a lot like a big pile of dogshit?

Why should I forgive when “they have nothing to ask forgiveness of me?”
Why does this keep happening?

I’m not some passive, innocent bystander.
I’ve attoned for my sins, openly, clearly.
I know how to take responsibility, and here it is, again.

I would quit. I really would. You’ve “tested” enough.
I’ve proved myself worthy, I have finished the race, and I want to yell, ENOUGH!!

But here we are. Fucking faith.
You push me to be better.

“Do you really believe this?”
“Do you really believe all things are possible?”
“Do you really think if forgiveness is extended you will be better, feel better, know better?”

Okay, that last one really isn’t a question…

“Do you want to be made whole?”
God asks me.
Yes, Lord. Please, please, please.

Then you have to forgive.
Again. And again. And again.

Damnit, faith. Just, fine! but also damnit.

Lent: Permission to be Human

Lent is my favorite church season, it allows our feelings of the darkness that is happening on this inside to be experienced outwardly. It is the season where we stop pretending that faith is easy and we walk a line of doubt and belief.

From dust we came, to dust we shall return. 40 days where we let our mortality show, and honestly, let God’s mortality show, through Jesus. During Christmas we emphasize how he was born of a woman and came to earth both fully human and fully God. We talk details about how fragile a baby he was, like any other. However, when you mix his birth story with the sensational story of his conception the human part of the story gets overshadowed (see what I did there…).

It’s the same thing with Easter. When we only focus on the sensational story of the resurrection, we miss the humanity of it all.

On the night of his arrest when the meal was over, Jesus walks into the garden, and he asks his companions to stay awake a while and pray with him. He goes a little farther in and prays to God. “Please don’t make me do this. Please.” He wails and gnashes his teeth, and pleads for his life. He does this three times and in between he finds his friends sleeping.

He is not whining, and I abhor the version where the “devil” is tempting him (in John’s gospel). Because it is this moment, here, why I am a follower of Jesus Christ today.

When I was in college I was a religious studies minor. I learned about God in all forms. I loved reading the sacred texts from different world religions and people’s experience of them. I liked to think through the implications of the belief that all things are sacred from different languages and different parts of the world.

After this, I asked myself, “Why do I want to be Christian when I see God in all these religions?”

I thought about where I had come from and what my history was, does it make sense for this Irish-German American to be a Buddhist? Then I didn’t care what it would look like. Then I cared again. Not so much the “look” from other people, but if I found the Sacred in many forms, why not go with the one my heritage taught? But I still needed one to “hook” me, I needed a passion for one religion over another and heritage wasn’t enough.

Finally, I got to the point where I asked, “What do I want most from God? What is the thing God can give me that the world cannot?”

The answer was fairly simple, it was the thing I had sought most in life: To be understood and accepted.

This wasn’t so much about church or community, I was seeking God, something more than humanity. I do not claim the yoke of Calvinism often, but I do when it comes to the sinfulness of humanity. I do believe in the human capacity for greatness, for goodness, but I also believe that it is we who create the bad in the world, not God.

As I sought acceptance and to be understood from humanity I found myself continually let down. Which is not those people’s fault as much as that gift can only come from God. We are all, if we know it or not, walking around trying to cope with being mortal.

In order to receive all my credits for the degree I had to take a class in Christianity. I had already received my call to seminary and was on my way. (I know it feels like I had done this backwards, but faith and life plans don’t always work together.) And so the only class available to me was Introduction to New Testament.

My faith had grown, I knew who I was, I knew who God was, and I was trying to reconcile the two. It was about this time of year when we were making our way through Matthew’s gospel. And there it was…

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[e] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” -Matthew 26:36-46

The world felt like it paused for a moment. I sat in awe. I wept.

Jesus, son of God, Word of God, the voice of God on earth, who came to earth so God may know us better, just did the thing I needed him to do the most. He grieved, he was scared, he was let down, he felt alone.

Now that’s a God I can get behind. That’s a God who gets me. That’s a God who will understand and accept me because in the end these moments are not weakness but strength, and this Christ knows it.

This story is read at the end of every Maundy Thursday service in my church, one of the last days of Lent and I weep every time I hear it.

It makes my experience of life and this world so fully understood and accepted. And I could not ask for more from my Savior.

I do not know what this Lenten season will hold. The world seems so dark. I do know that I will ask questions and explore my mortality through prayer that may include wailing and agitation and gnashing of teeth and that’s okay, after all, if it’s good enough for Jesus…

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The Spew Effect

Call it what you want: vomit, throw up, barf, getting sick, puke, heave, hurl… shall I go on? Probably not. (I don’t actually expect many people to read past here… but hang in there if you can).

We all have a gag reflex, and it’s a natural instinct that when someone throws up, we gag. Some are more susceptible to this than others, but we all have it. It’s like the worst empathetic reaction ever.

When it comes to actual vomiting I do not have a sensitive gag reflex, but when it comes to word vomit I do. Especially these days.

We’re not doing so well, are we? I mean we’re not in my little corner of the world. We’re pissy, we’re raw, we’re sensitive, we’re unable to contain our emotions at things that would normally roll off our back.

So we word vomit, we word vomit (if you’re like me) on someone we love because they’re safe. It could be a legit thing or not – chances are the thing that is causing you to vomit has very little to do with the person in front of you that you’re vomiting all over.

So… what happens now? The person gags. Maybe they gag and vomit on you, or maybe the sickness that has now transferred to them is lingering until the next moment and then BAM! They vomit all over someone else. Then they get the disease and spew to their people and they call a friend and spew to them and so on and so forth.

 

This cycle continues over and over and over again until it finally hits someone with a healthy immune system and is able to walk away unscathed.

I used to be that person, but not today. My vices are gone. I’m just off. And before you ask I’m doing all my self-care stuff but the world is a hard place, and we are all suffering. I am seeing my therapist, I am exercising (although I could ALWAYS do more) I am taking time away from social media but none of it is working. I still feel nauseous.

I usually chalk it up to an existential crisis, but the reality is, we’re all feeling this way. We are having a national existential crisis. We don’t know who we are anymore. We’re not confident in where we’re going or what the point of any of it is. We feel absolutely hopeless.

So we get mad at something, little things grate on our nerves and we blow up and spew all over the place and then they spew… and well, you get it. The leader of the free world is one big stomach flu infecting the world. It is makes us sick.

Friends, I don’t know what to tell you, but, we have to get better. We have to find a cure or an antidote. Even Star Wars Movies aren’t cutting it… and that’s saying something.

Usually I give the advice at this time to a person or a couple going through this, “be really good to yourselves” but I at least for me, it’s not working. I’m not doing such a good job right now caring for those I’m supposed to care for because I, the one who is supposed to be healthy, is spewing all over the place.

I don’t know what to tell us, except to acknowledge it, and possibly, embrace it… Let’s have moments where we “sound [our] barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world” like Walt Whitman. We need more screaming matches and physical activity to get this pent up frustration out. Hell, maybe we all just need to be having more sex!

We cannot function on this high of stress level. At worst we’re killing ourselves, and at best we’re weakening our immune systems to a point where we will have no defense left, no person to make the cycle stop.

So, yawp it up friends, and let’s do our best to contain our spewing to the places it causes the least harm.

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Reconciling Jesus

Here’s how my sermon prep really goes. I read the text, I pick liturgy and hymns a few months in advance, then I don’t really look at it again until the week of. Then I read commentaries are the text works on me (yes, works on me) through the Holy Spirit all week. I look for stories and modern day examples to use, but don’t write a lot of words down, maybe an outline.

I knew this week would be hard because it’s the first time divorce has come up in the lectionary since I’ve been divorced. I looked at past sermons, wow… did I not have a clue how hurtful this text was.

So, here’s my sermon from today, the congregation loved it but so did I. I took a deep breath and disagreed with Jesus. Then, I decided to reconcile with him too. God is not black and white friends, and we can’t take scripture that way either.

Have a listen:

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For Bowling Green

I wrote this piece for a group I blog for “RevGalBlogPals”. Thought you all might enjoy.

Okay, I totally wasn’t going to write about this. Really, I mean besides being kind of funny on some memes – is it really worth talking about? I mean should I give my time to she who speaks lies? Unfortunately, yes, and in this instance she’s hit home for me. As this RevGal was born […]

via Pastoral is Political: Massacring the Good People of Bowling Green — RevGalBlogPals

A Luminous 2017


For the last few weeks I have prayed about a word for 2017. Today, sitting in worship it came to me. 

In a meditative service I adapted at about 11:45pm on New Year’s Eve I wrote meditation questions for the new year. One was “What name has God written in your heart for this year?”

And there is was “and she will be called Luminous.”

Yeah. I can’t make this stuff up. 


Luminous. I like it. 

Throughout the Christmas season we read John 1, we talk about the light (Jesus) that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. 

This word has been working on me for a few weeks now. I noticed it on Christmas Eve when something struck me in a new way. 

At the end of Silent Night I stand in front of the congregation with my lit candle and say this:

Even though the light in our hands may be extinguished the light of Christ born in our hearts this night goes with us into the world to bring good news for all to hear. 

In other words, we are now the bearer of Christ’s light in the world. 

For whatever 2017 brings, I pray I can be a beacon of light. I pray I am up for the challenge. 

I anticipate a year where standing up to tyrany and hate will be needed. I anticipate a year when darkness will cover the face of the deep. I anticipate a year where in the midst of watery chaos and formless void that God will say “Let there be light” and declare the light good. 

I pray for new mercies and joy each morning. 

I anticipate a year of holding a torch for justice and candles of rememberance. 

God has called me to be a luminous light. If it be blinding and harsher that one would like, then so be it. 

For darkness cannot be driven out by darkness, only light can do that. (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

May it be so for you and for me. Happy New Year Friends, may it be a Luminous Year!

Promise: Year End Review

2014 was “Bloom”, 2015 was “Shalom” and 2016 – “Promise”

The year of promise is over and as I reflect, I anticipated 2016 to be a year of “Promise as anticipated joy.” Well, not so much. However, all was not lost in the realm of promise, but, as it turns out, 2016 was a year of promise, as in, faithfulness in the midst of adversity. 2016 will also go down as the year of keeping the promise of who I am and faithfully living that out despite these obstacles.

But first, 2016, overall can suck it. It will go down as the year of celebrity deaths and the epic mistake that is the election of Donald Trump.

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But that will not have the last word, the year of Promise, has some great accomplishments, here are a few:

First, to my children. I promised my children a few years ago when their father and I divorced that I would keep the house. This has not been a difficult promise, more so than I realized when I made it. This is a promise I struggle to keep on a monthly basis when the mortgage payment is due. But it is not simply the one payment, there is also the expense of upkeep, you know, like a costly HVAC system I did not anticipate dishing out, or a new roof on part of the house.

The financial burden of this year has been enormous, I cannot lie about that. However, in the midst of this year and drain on my finances this house is very much a home and a blessing.

This is the home for 4 children and 2 adults. It holds family dinners, a family garden, a basement where we dance and watch tv. It’s where we gather with friends and neighbors for fire pit and grilling. It holds space for friends who need a retreat and a warm bed. It is our home, futures are discussed here, children are tucked in, and love is shared here. The promise I have kept about this home has brought much joy and love.

Second, to my partner. Derrick’s had a rough year, he’s lost his job and his confidence. This, after 2 of the worst years of his life. It’s not always easy loving someone who has chronic depression and live in competition of the voices of depression that live inside his head, but I could not be more proud to love him. There are many promises one makes when they decide to connect and partner with another, when they decide to share their lives so intimately.

This year I have kept my promises to love and support him. It has truly been my honor. I pray this will be the most stressful and difficult year together, I pray that we will leave this year in our dust. In the past I struggled to keep promises of forgiveness and releasing grudges, not just with him, but in general. I am proud of the way I have been able to do that in our relationship this year, loving him has kept a promise within myself – to love fearlessly.

Last, I have kept promises with myself. I have made decisions this year to be good to myself. This is not about perfection, but I have noticed this year that I like myself more and more. I have been able to see and made some clear decisions, draw some clear boundaries.

I have created boundaries and goals in my work which has lowered my anxiety and made me a better parent. I have been able to love myself better, despite some weight gain which at one time would have sent me into a deep depression. I have made some decisions about my future that could relieve some stress about my future.

2016 overall can suck it, but through the promises made and kept this year I am happier, more stable, and my life is full of love and joy.

Soon I will look to 2017 and announce a new word, but for the next few days, I will continue these promises and more.

Mary Did You Know? You’re Everything Wrong with American Christians

Okay, Mary’s not what’s wrong with American Christians, but “Mary Did You Know?” is. You know the song… That terrible, overplayed, evangelical Christmas song that is you have ever read Luke 1,  the Magnificat , you would know that clearly this woman who is chosen to carry the savior of the world in the most dramatic and possibly most ridiculous way of all time DID know, leaving the song as one long mansplaining episode by the writer Mark Lowry? Yeah… that one.

Listen, I know it’s got a pretty melody and Pentatonixs made a video of it in a cave and it made you cry, I get it. And I’m sorry, because the reality is, it’s the most ridiculous song I’ve every heard. AND EVEN MORE THAN THAT, it is everything that is wrong with American Christians.

FIRST- It’s Patriarchal- Mark Lowry is a white evangelical who is a graduate of Liberty University, one of the most conservative universities in the country. I mean, I guess he can’t help it, right? From day one he was taught that women in the bible are evil, maybe Mary was an exception to the evil, I mean she and her “purity” is what all woman should subscribe to.

We’ve missed the fact that the news that Mary gets through this angel is that her body is about to be violated, she will become pregnant without her consent. She is to carry the child and she is to name him Jesus. She has no choice over her body or even his name.

Not only that, but she will be culturally shunned and her engagement will most likely be called off. We forget that she must rely on Joseph’s mercy to forgive her (for something she didn’t do). We forget that she could have been stoned to death if he chose not to forgive her. But she is to be regarded and appreciated not for her amazing strength and will but for her purity.

Purity takes on many forms. The obvious one is virginity. Women should be sexless, except inside of the covenant of marriage and even then, for procreation. Mary is the perfect woman because she could have a child WITHOUT having to have sex with a man and therefore she is the perfect woman in purity, fulfilling her role as a woman without demolishing her virginity.

However, in the patriarchal church Mary couldn’t have possibly have known what was happening to her, that is until her husband accepted her pregnancy. Even though if you read the scriptures the angel Gabriel comes to Mary, tells her what is to happen. She then goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth and through their conversations Mary processes what is happening to her and does a battle cry of justice and mercy of God that shall reign through her child.

However, because no man has been involved in this story so far (angels aren’t “men”) so regardless of the scriptures, she could’t possibly understand. Women are simply not capable.

SECOND- It’s Proof Texting- According to sources (wikipedia) the song was written as a script for a Christmas play. These were questions Mark would like to ask Mary, the questions were asked between scenes of the play. It seems to me that would be the shortest Christmas play ever:

Mark: “Mary, did you know?”
Mary: “yes. yes I did.”

AND Scene.

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Here’s the thing. Mark knows his bible, pick me a line, any line from the song and it is based in scripture. To save time here’s a random sampling- Walk on water? Matthew 14, Sight to a Blind Man? John 9, Calm a storm? Mark 4, Walked Where Angels Trod? John 1, Rule the Nations, Matthew 28, and my favorite, This child that you deliver, will soon deliver you, John 19.

Why is it my favorite, BECAUSE SHE’S LITERALLY STANDING RIGHT THERE! John 19:26 “When Jesus saw his mother…” Seriously?!? Is she invisible? Yes, see point 1.

Proof texting is when one pulls a quote and uses it out of context to prove their point. When you proof text, you miss the arc of the story, you often miss the intention of the meaning of the quote. Here’s a quote for you:

“Feminism encourages women!”

I love it, it’s beautiful, it’s also true. It’s also Pat Robertson and here’s the whole quote, “Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” But Pat Robertson endorsed feminism and said it encouraged women! See what proof texting does?

“God hates Fags”, it says it in the Bible. Well, okay, there are two mandates that Leviticus lays out (see what I did there 😉 and says men shall not lie with (have sex with) men. Leviticus also says that I can sell my daughter into slavery and I can’t eat pig or wear clothes of mixed fiber. Read more about all this here.

Mary Did You Know? massive flaw is that these scriptures are taken out of context. Read the Magnificat she knew, she was also there participating in Jesus’ ministry!

THIRD- It’s Emotionally Manipulative- Listen, I’ve been there. I’ve been the sweet young girl who soloed “Mary Did You Know?” in front of a congregation because they wanted to see innocents personified. The song appeals to the maternalization of Mary.

Find some young sweet, young fertile girl, to remind us just how innocent and unsuspecting she would have been. Put her in front of a congregation so we can swoon over days gone by. So we can be lulled into complacency that if I pray hard enough and do the “right things” there will be a brand new Lexus at my door come Christmas Morning.

We so easily make the story of Jesus conception and birth about starry nights and a beautiful quiet sleeping baby and a perfect family. We so easily forget the emphasis that Jesus had a human birth, which means, it was messy. Very, very messy.

Jesus was born of a woman, meaning there was a bodily fluid and blood. There was a placenta and sweat and maybe even a bowel movement. Birth at this time also didn’t take place in a nice sterile hospital either, and Mary didn’t get the advantage of being in the comfort of her home with her family midwife near. No, she’s miles away in a smelly barn with her deer in the headlights husband, who according to the scriptures has never even seen her vagina.

There was sweat, there was blood, there were tears and screams and cow dung. Silent Night my ass. But that doesn’t appeal to us this time of year. In order to truly appreciate the story she wouldn’t have broken a sweat, laid down, popped the perfectly clean baby out and immediately made tea for her guests. This is what brings us close to God, she pondered these things in her heart, and iced her whoha.

So let’s get it straight, American Christians. For the love of all that is Holy, literally. Can we stop pressuring each other into pretending that Mary wasn’t scared, can we stop pretending that she didn’t know for one second the risks her son would go through? She knew the world better than anyone, and despite all the bullshit she had been put through not only did she know, she said yes!

God love her.

The Magnificat is a war cry. Mary knows the history of the Israelites waiting for a messiah, she celebrates by singing, that singing is to drive us into action for Justice and prepare us to be true followers of Christ. We want silent night but Mary knows, better than we do, that the king that is coming, is going to turn out world upside down.